RAF Wittering squadrons in major international exercise

The Fuels Support Team from 1 (EL) Sqn working on the PBFI.

Logistics Squadrons from the A4 Force at Royal Air Force Wittering are fuelling and feeding international military Exercise COBRA WARRIOR at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.

Aircraft from the German, Italian and Israeli Air Forces will join aircraft from the Royal Air Force and United States Air Force in high intensity tactical training over the coming weeks. Around 50 aircraft of various types will be participating in the exercise, which will run until 20 September.

Over the last few weeks, the Fuels Support Team from No 1 Expeditionary Logistics (EL) Squadron has been building the Primary Bulk Fuel Installation (PBFI) at RAF Waddington. These large portable tanks allow the Royal Air Force to have an aircraft fuels depot anywhere in the world, especially in places where fuels are not easily available.

Building a PBFI is a complex process and fuels are dangerous if not handled and stored properly. The PBFI requires solid foundations and must be built to precise measurements if it is to work properly.

Sergeant Sadie Johnstone from 1 EL Squadron is running the PBFI on Exercise Cobra Warrior. She said:

“Building and operating a PBFI in an exercise is challenging and rewarding. The Fuels Support Team work exceptionally hard in all weather conditions to ensure we meet our operational capability deadlines. There is huge sense of relief and satisfaction once we have successfully tested the site and taken fuel ready to issue to aircraft.”

A member of the Fuels Support Team testing the fuels.

Hundreds of men and women from the participating nations will fly and maintain the aircraft during the exercise. Cobra Warrior is designed to test and grow the leadership skills of aircrew and groundcrew.  Over the coming weeks they will develop and practice tactics and techniques against a capable enemy.

Today the RAF is engaged in 15 missions on 4 continents in 22 countries and the A4 Force is involved in most of them. The A4 Force is made up of specialised engineering and logistics squadrons. From aircraft repair and recovery, to road transport, supply, catering and even mountain rescue, these squadrons deploy at short notice and go anywhere in the world to support Royal Air Force operations.

No 3 Mobile Catering Squadron (3 MCS) will keep the exercise fed with a nutritionally balanced diet. International exercises like Cobra Warrior can be challenging. In addition to British personnel, the chefs of 3MCS must prepare meals which the German, Italian and American air forces can enjoy. 

Acting Flight Sergeant Matt Caffyn of 3 MCS.

The team produces three meals per day for five hundred people. Acting Flight Sergeant Matt Caffyn is running a team of 19 chefs from across the MOD. He said:

“One of the challenges is getting an accurate idea of how many people we’re feeding during the day, because the phases of the exercise don’t run in sync with meal times, but it’s been great cooking for the Germans and the Italians. The Germans were more than happy and the Italians were taking pictures of the servery. The British were really chuffed, as usual.”

3MCS feeding the Italian Air Force.

Group Captain Jo Lincoln is the Station Commander and A4 Force Element Commander at RAF Wittering and commands the squadrons of the A4 Force. She said:

“During exercises and operations we expect to work with other military forces, so we have to be ready for the different requirements they have. That means a fuels team who can look after fuels safely, and a catering squadron that understands the dietary needs of other nationalities.”

Group Captain Lincoln concluded:

“You can never take anything for granted on an exercise like Cobra Warrior which provides an excellent training opportunity for the A4 Force; there are always new things to learn. The experienced and skilled teams from 1 (EL) Sqn and 3 MCS are there to ensure that people and aircraft have the food and fuel they need so that the exercises can be a success.”

Top image: The Fuels Support Team from 1 (EL) Sqn working on the PBFI.

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